Lefty batters’ stern test in the Caribbean
The last time Bangladesh played a Test series in West Indies, Kemar Roach hobbled away to a fifer, conceding just eight runs in Antigua, the venue for Bangladesh's upcoming Test against the Windies this time around as well. In 2018, Bangladesh fell to their lowest Test score of 43 during that tour and Roach, Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel ran riot.
Raw pace, extra bounce and the brand-new duke ball undid the Tigers in that first innings. Tamim Iqbal got one that just moved away slightly and got the edge. Mominul Haque then pushed at a fuller length one and was caught at gully. Skipper Shakib Al Hasan's stay lasted just one delivery as he failed to get his bat out of Roach's line just outside the off-stump. The common denominators in all three dismissals? Roach, right-arm pace from around the wicket, bowling to a left-handed batter.
Bangladesh top-order is full of left handers with Tamim, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul and Shakib in there. Since 2019, Tamim has gotten out to right-arm pace from around the wicket thrice in 12 innings. Mominul has been done by that line of delivery six times in 20 innings, same as Shanto who took only 12 innings while skipper Shakib had gotten out twice in four innings during the same period.
When a right-arm pacer goes around the wicket to a left-hander, the bowler increases the chances of getting one of three probable ways in which to bag a wicket. Bowled, leg-before or the nick through to wicket-keeper or slip cordon are all in play. But before anyone looks at the Bangladesh batting order's lefties with disdain, the overall picture is of right-arm pacers holding sway over left-hand batters in Tests for quite a while now.
From 2001 till 2014, left-handers had averaged 36.38, compared to 26.91 managed by right-handed batters while batting against right-arm pacers. Since 2015 till present, the average of lefties against right-arm quicks is 27.83. What changed? Right-arm pacers bowling from around the wicket. In the last five years, 40 percent deliveries from right-arm pacers have come from around the wicket compared to 21 per cent in the previous decade.
Coming back to Roach, the pacer has the highest number of wickets in Antigua, bagging 43 in eight matches. Holder, Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph make up the top four in a ground where the first Test was held in 2008.
Meanwhile Jayden Seales, who has 13 Tests under his belt, has also looked sharp in recent Tests for the Windies and looking like he might be a regular face in the Windies Test squad.
Forget the others, even medium pacer Kyle Mayers wreaked havoc in Windies in the last Test his side played at home, picking up five wickets against England which sealed the series for the hosts. Given the Windies pace attack's height and guile at bowling good line, it should be a scary prospect for Bangladesh top-order and especially left-handers. All these Windies pacers have one thing in common, they are all right-arm pacers.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, will be missing the services of Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam in the Tests and will be hoping that Mustafizur Rahman, Ebadot Hossain and Khaled Ahmed can leave a mark.
"There is no alternative to winning and we want to win. But performances in Tests have been a concern. Our top-order didn't click and concern remains on how we played against Sri Lanka at Dhaka Test," team director Khaled Mahmud told the media yesterday.
"The boys have a lot of ability, Shanto is still new but has two hundreds. Mominul has the highest number of Test centuries among batters in Bangladesh and Tamim has a lot of experience in this format. In top-order, apart from [Mahmudul Hasan] Joy, we have experienced players so hopefully if the boys return to form, we are a good side," Mahmud added but going by the trend of right-arm pace against left-arm batters, the task is set to be difficult in Windies Tests.